I spotted a thread the other day on Facebook in which someone was screaming about the Moon landings being faked. ‘Wake up!’ this person insisted. ‘The Moon landings were faked.’ Why? Apparently we haven’t been back since 1972 and, according to this person, lack the technology to do so.
Well, quite. It was one of the sillier landing-denial efforts. The usual method is to imagine that NASA faked it all in a studio, were too stupid to get it right despite employing 400,000 of the smartest people in the United States – but luckily the smart moon-hoax detectives are on the job and can spot the errors! My favourite is the ‘two light source’ claim. If you look at just about any of the pictures from the lunar surface, you’ll see that the shadow side of the subjects is always fairly well lit. But in vacuum, there’s nothing to scatter the light around – the shadow should be pitch black. According to the conspiracists, it’s because NASA stupidly used in-fill floods, a second light-source, to make it all look good for the camera. How dumb of them.
Needless to say I have a few problems with this claim. One of them is why, if NASA were trying to fake single-direction illumination, they didn’t simply use a spotlight and shoot from the illuminated side? To add extra floods and shoot from the other side seems a bit over-complex. Of course, what’s really happening here is that it’s the moon hoax conspiracists who’re wrong, and it’s trivial to show why. I can do it with this – a photo I took of my favourite Napier icon, the Tom Parker Fountain of 1936. The thing is, it’s set in a wide and shallow pool – which reflects the Sun’s light straight back into the shadow side of the fountain. Like this:
The way is works is clear from this close-up:
What’s happening is that the specular reflection of the sunlight from the water is filling in the shadow side of the fountain. To compare with the amount of in-fill you get from atmospheric scatter alone, check the density of the shadow under the topiary on the bottom right corner of the picture. See what I mean?
Now, the same principle is at work in the Apollo lunar surface photos. The Moon’s surface is fairly dark – it has an albedo (reflectivity) of about two percent. But that’s enough to do the trick, particularly given the intensity of the sunlight and the low sun angles involved. If you look at the NASA photos, you’ll see the shadow side isn’t all that well lit, but the camera has been exposed on those shadows – the areas under direct illumination are actually over-exposed. What’s more, the picture of Aldrin above clearly shows pitch-black shadows at ground level, as you’d expect in circumstance where reflected light couldn’t reach. Whereas Aldrin, some distance above the regolith on the ladder, is catching the reflections very well. You can see the same thing in this photo of Aldrin setting up the Solar Wind experiment.
Actually, there shouldn’t be any need to dispute the alleged fakery down to this level – all it does it play into the hands of those alleging the whole thing was faked. In reality, the Apollo Program drew in something like 400,000 Americans across a wide swathe of industry, from sports-bra makers (who made the space-suits) to computer-manufacturers and virtually the whole aviation industry. Not one of those involved have, it seems, squealed since about fakery. Not one. Besides which, if the Americans had ‘faked’ it, the Soviets would have blown the whistle at the time, given the billions of roubles they had poured into their own effort. And that’s without considering the extent to which the post-Apollo tech spinoffs shaped the modern world – everything from memory-foam mattresses to fly-by-wire and, of course, the whole of modern computing. Yah. That.
In reality, of course, the moon landings did happen, and we don’t have to look far to run into the point directly. As just one example, there’s someone I know, via blogging, in the US whose Dad was the pad safety official for Apollo 11. (How cool is that?) The reason nobody went back was that it was a hideously expensive effort, driven almost entirely by the political imperatives of the Cold War. Political support was evaporating even before the project was over. NASA’s ambitious plans to extend Apollo-era systems into space-stations, semi-permanent lunar bases and even a 1974 manned Venus fly-by were being scaled back by 1967, even before Neil Armstrong set foot on the Sea of Tranquility. Damn.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2019